Berlin-based Nadim Samman will be one of the three curators for the upcoming PRELUDE: A Preview of Aurora 2017 – Powered by Reliant, alongside Dooeun Choi (New York) and Justine Ludwig (Dallas). We had the opportunity to interview Nadim about bringing London-based digital artist Quayola’s larger-than life projections to the facade of the Meyerson Symphony Center, as well as his multi-faceted and adventurous exhibition history.
How would you describe your personal curatorial practice?
We’re living through a Fourth Industrial Revolution that is altering every facet of life – from economics and politics, right down to biology. A growing number of artists are exploring the huge impact, and potential, of emerging technologies today. My recent gallery exhibitions have been focused on this topic, while exploring (what I see as) the unacknowledged mythical dimensions of our everyday experience of techno-culture. Outside the gallery, I’ve been developing a series of site-specific projects in hard-to-reach places, including an island in the Pacific Ocean; Antarctica; and Bikini Atoll. Working in places without an artistic infrastructure forces you to take less obvious routes toward making your topic visible. In doing this, you learn more about the place that you are working in, and its relation to the rest of the world.
What guides your choice of artists for your section of PRELUDE?
Aurora is a huge event spread across quite a few city blocks. PRELUDE is more contained, in terms of space and number of artists, but it still needs to have a festival atmosphere – and to light the fuse of excitement for 2017. For this reason, it is important to me that the selected works be spectacular. Davide Quayola is an amazing artist working at the absolute cutting edge of contemporary digital imaging, who is very engaged with the history of art, and the future of technology. His audio-visual installations in public spaces are like concerts. In this case, the walls of the Meyerson Symphony Center will be the stage. We’ll be exhibiting two gigantic works – one of which, Pleasant Places, is a new commission for Dallas.
Since the Meyerson Symphony Center isn’t a traditional gallery space, does curating for PRELUDE present any unique challenges?
Quayola’s work will be projected onto multiple walled surfaces of I.M. Pei’s magnificent Symphony Center. Because Pleasant Places is a new work for the Meyerson, it is not just a case of using the building as a screen that just happens to have incidental architectural volumes and angles. The building’s specific shape is a central factor in Quayola’s editorial/directorial choices, and the number of channels of video that we will run. This is an installation that is really for the Meyerson. It will be a great opportunity for the Dallas community to discover this wonderful artist.
Tell me about your most ambitious exhibition to date.
That would be Treasure of Lima: A Buried Exhibition, a site-specific intervention on the uninhabited Isla del Coco, a jungle island 500km off the pacific coast of Costa Rica. It’s the original ‘treasure island’ – the home of many legends, and was inspiration to Robert Louis Stevenson. The project involved burying a chest full of 40 commissioned artworks at a secret jungle location. We had the GPS coordinates of the location encrypted by an amazing Dutch artist, Constant Dullaart, who worked in collaboration with a top IT security consultant. The resulting cypher (just over 2,000 characters long) was then 3D printed as a steel scroll (or unreadable ‘map’ to the buried exhibition/treasure). We took this scroll to auction in NYC and sold it for just under a quarter of a million dollars. The buyer did not get the ‘key’ to decrypt the map, and it is illegal for them to dig for anything on the island! We used the money to establish a research and conservation project for the sharks that live in the waters around the island. It was a full-spectrum project, engaging with physical place, history, myth, market, desire, law and ecology.
What’s the best exhibition you’ve seen so far in 2016 and why?
That would be the Russian Cosmos exhibition at the Moscow Multimedia Art Museum, in June, curated by the inimitable Olga Sviblova. The exhibition combined visionary sketches from the 1920s, along with hand drawn plans for lunar capsules created in the 1960s (imagine, today, designing a spacecraft with a pencil and pen, and then building it!). This historical material was brought together with star-gazing work by Russian conceptual artists from the 1970s until present, such as Ilya Kabakov and Francisco Infante. There was even a real, partially burnt, lunar module that had been to space. Its was really unusual, but highly appropriate, to see high conceptual art paired with industrial design and engineering. The exhibition really brought alive the transcendent desires underlying the 20th Century race for space. It took us from esoteric visions, and real mysticism, to concrete machines. It was a very humane exhibition that placed technological achievements in a wider cultural frame.
Nadim Julien Samman studied Philosophy at University College London before completing a doctorate in art history at the Courtauld Institute of Art. In 2012 he curated the 4th Marrakech Biennale with Carson Chan. Projects in 2014 included Antarctopia: The Antarctic Pavilion, 14th Venice Biennale of Architecture, and Treasure of Lima: A Buried Exhibition – a unique site-specific exhibition on the remote Pacific island of Isla del Coco. Nadim is Co-Director of Import Projects and Editor of Near East Magazine.
PRELUDE will take place over two nights, Friday, October 21 and Saturday, October 22, 2016, and will transforming the AT&T Performing Arts Center campus and the Meyerson Symphony Center with light, video and sound-based, immersive arts installations.